Irish cocaine use fourth in EU

IRELAND has the fourth highest use of cocaine in the EU, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report.

The agency said use of cocaine among young adults (15-34) last year was “particularly high” in Britain, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

It said recent surveys showed cocaine use continued to rise in seven states, including Ireland.

Lifetime rates of cocaine usage for 15-34 year olds in Ireland increased from 5% in 2003 to 8% in 2007, while last year use increased from 2% to 3%.

The EMCDDA 2008 annual report said that among an even younger age group — 15-24 years — Ireland moved into third place for cocaine use last year, ahead of Denmark and Italy.

Britain and Spain have by far the highest use of cocaine across all age groups and time periods.

Dr Jean Long of the Health Research Board said Ireland was among the “high prevalence” nations.

“Ireland’s increased cocaine problem is the result of a number of factors including availability, price, affluence, a young population and geography — we are in a group of countries most affected by the supply chain,” she said.

The EMCDDA said the global production of cocaine in Columbia, Peru and Bolivia remained high despite massive efforts to destroy coca crops.

The agency said both the number and quantity of cocaine seized in Europe had increased dramatically, with 17% of global cocaine production intercepted in Europe in 2006, compared with 8% in 2000.

Dr Long said the number of cocaine seizures in Ireland rose from 515 in 2003 to 1,500 in 2006.

The report said the number of new clients with cocaine problems seeking treatment in the EU increased from 13,000 in 2002 to 30,000 in 2006.

Dr Long said this was reflected in Ireland, with new cocaine cases rising from 81 in 2001 to 770 in 2007.

The EMCDDA said there were 500 deaths caused by cocaine in 2006. Dr Long said there were 34 deaths involving cocaine in Ireland in 2005.

The EU report said the emergence of west Africa as a trafficking route was of particular concern, with almost a quarter of European cocaine seizures having come from there.

“It is the dramatic increase in trafficking via the west Africa route that is thought to have contributed to increased availability and falling cocaine prices in Europe,” it said.

The head of the drug unit at the European Commission, Carel Edwards, said trafficking along west Africa was a “serious problem” and that Latin American cartels were targeting this route in a “systematic way”.

But he said a new EU law enforcement coordination unit (MAOC-N) had seized 30 tonnes of cocaine in its first year and that this was “beginning to hurt the traffickers”.

The report noted that between 80% and 90% of adults who had used cocaine at least once had not used it in the past month, a pattern reflected in Ireland.

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